5 Sweet and Savory Things to Do With Cocoa Nibs

Every week, baking expert Alice Medrich will be going rogue on Food52 — with shortcuts, hacks, and game-changing recipes.

Today: What, exactly, are you supposed to do with cocoa nibs? Alice tells all.

Cacao or cocoa nibs are bits of hulled cocoa beans. Most nibs are sold roasted (and those have the best flavor). They are unsweetened — thus somewhat bitter — and super crunchy, with intense and rather primal chocolate flavors.

More: 10 Chocolate Cookies. You’re welcome.

Nibs were once found only in chocolate factories, where they were ground up and made into chocolate. Nibs are still the defining ingredient in all chocolate manufacture, but they are now also available in better supermarkets and specialty stores. You can use nibs in all kinds of sweet and savory ways. Here are five to get you started.

5 Sweet and Savory Things to Do with Cocoa Nibs

1. Sprinkle nibs on vanilla (or other) ice cream for a grown-up ice cream experience.

2. Add nibs — in addition to or instead of — nuts in cookie recipes.

3. Make cocoa nib-infused whipped cream: Bring 1/3 cup of roasted nibs to a simmer in 1 cup of heavy cream. Off heat, cover and let steep 20 minutes and then

COOKING WITH Cocoa Butter and Shea Butter

We all know how popular cocoa butter and shea butter are for moisturizing skin and hair, but does anyone here actually cook with the two? After doing very brief research, I can’t figure out why they aren’t more popular. Let’s start with cocoa butter.

Cocoa Butter (1 Tbsp)
13.5g Total Fat
8.1g SFA (60%)
4.4g MUFA (33%)
0.4g PUFA (3%)

Cocoa butter is also rich in Vitamin K and Vitamin E.

Now, onto shea butter.

Shea Butter

16:0 Palmitic 4.0
18:0 Stearic 41.5
18:1 Oleic 46.4
18:2 Linoleic 6.6
20:0 Arachidic 1.3

If memory serves, palmitic and stearic are SFA’s, Oleic is a MUFA and linoleic and arachidic are PUFA’s. That makes shea butter break down as:

45.5% SFA
46.4% MUFA
7.9% PUFA

Shea butter is rich in beta carotene, is known for its phenolic compounds, has been used in Africa as a cooking oil for centuries and is sometimes used in Europe to make chocolate.

Raw food grade cocoa butter can be found here for $17/lb shipped.

Shea butter is very inexpensive and 2.3 pounds of food grade shea butter can be had here for $18 shipped.

For $35, I can get shea butter and cocoa butter, all food grade. They sure have great fatty acid profiles. Why aren’t

How to substitute unsweetened baker’s chocolate for powdered cocoa

Baker’s chocolate is essentially cocoa powder and cocoa butter. Usually a little lecithin is added to make it smooth and sometimes it has some sugar.

Substitution tables suggest that the unsweetened chocolate can be replaced with 3 parts cocoa and one part butter.

This means that one cup of melted baker’s chocolate could be used in place of the 3/4 cup of cocoa and 1/4 cup of the fat in the cake recipe. Obviously it would have to be added with the wet ingredients instead of the dry as the cocoa is.

If the baker’s chocolate is bittersweet or semisweet instead of unsweetened then the sugar in the cake would need to be reduced accordingly.

The lecithin in the baking chocolate will actually improve the consistency of the cake

Another answer

5 down vote accepted

It’s just a really basic (plain-vanilla, if you will 😉 chocolate cake recipe. You’d be better off just finding a basic chocolate cake recipe that calls for unsweetened chocolate in the first place, especially if you’re new-ish to chocolate cake.

Otherwise the substitution that Sobachatina suggests above requires some fancy recipe-adjusting work on your part. Cocoa & fat

Can I substitute cocoa for semisweet chocolate?

Cocoa powder is made by baking the cocoa beans and then removing all the fat from them, then milling the rest to a powder. In fact, semisweet chocolate is a solid sol (a colloid formed from homogenically dispersing solid particles (cocoa dry matter) in a solid (cocoa fat)). What you should add is not water, but fat.

Before you start, you must be aware that cocoa fat has some very special properties. It melts at a very convenient temperature, so it is solid in the air and melts in the mouth. Plus, it has a very special form of crystalline structure, which allows [tempering].1 This means that the substitution won’t work for some very specific uses like making Belgian chocolates. For chocolate cake or brownies, the texture will be somewhat off, but not too much, so it should deliver acceptable results for the home cook. The taste will also be different (there is a reason why pure chocolate is so expensive, it only uses real cocoa fat, bars with other fat types like Milka can’t compare with the original).

There is also the question of choosing the fat. It should be solid by room temperature. Butter is often used in

Can I increase the cocoa content in fudge?

‘ve been using a standard fudge recipe that works great, and yet I only wish was that it was even more chocolatey, with more cocoa taste. If it was less sweet that would be fine, too. Can I substitute some sugar for cocoa to accomplish this? Or just add extra cocoa?

Recipe so far:

  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1/2 cup cocoa
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 4 tbsp butter
    1. Bring milk, sugar, cocoa to boil.
    2. Simmer until it reaches 234°F, do not stir.
    3. Remove from heat, cool to ~125°F.
    4. Add butter and stir until it starts to dull.
    5. (Sometimes I add the butter as soon as I take it off the heat at soft ball.)
      2 down vote

      Looking at your recipe, the most obvious thing to me is that there is no salt. Adding a small quantity of salt (say, 1/2 tsp) will enhance the flavors of the ingredients already present.

      The second thing you might try is switching to dutch processed cocoa; many people find this has a more intense chocolaty taste.

      You could try enhancing the overall flavor by adding a small amount of cinnamon (say 1/4 tsp) or instant espresso powder (perhaps 1 tbl). While these ingredients do not, in small amounts,

How long can you keep chocolate, and what is the best way to store it?

For instance, I have some bars of Valrhona I use for chocolate tarts and pastries, but I haven’t been doing the dessert thing in a while. How long does chocolate last before losing flavor (or does it)? And once it gets that white stuff on the outside, is it done? What’s the best way to store it for as long as possible?

Regardless of type, all chocolate should be stored in a cool and low humidity (dry) place away from direct sunlight. It would be best to seal it in an air-tight container, because, as ElendiTheTall said, the cocoa butter in it will absorb flavors.

Dark chocolate will last for years. Milk and white chocolate will last for a much shorter time (a few months), because of their milk content.

Improperly stored chocolate will develop bloom, which shows as a white or grey streaking or spotting on the surface. The spotting or streaking is cocoa butter fat separating and is a sign that the chocolate’s temper has been lost. This kind of chocolate is still suitable for any application where the chocolate will be fully melted (most baking). It can even be used as the base (non-seed) chocolate for tempering with the

How can I identify dutch process cocoa?

I have a hard time finding “dutch process cocoa” in the store sometimes.

  • What other names might dutch process cocoa be known as?
  • Is there something else in the ingredients that might identify dutch process cocoa.

What is the key property of dutch process cocoa that makes it do its job? (Especially in cake and brownie applications?)

There really isn’t another name for Dutch processed cocoa. You could perhaps look at the ingredients or label and search for some reference to alkalization. Cocoa powder, Dutched or natural, consists of a single ingredient: cocoa. The difference is that Dutched cocoa has an extra step in the manufacturing process.

Normal cocoa powder is created from cocoa beans. These beans are fermented, roasted, shelled, and then ground into a paste known as chocolate liquor. This is roughly 50/50 cocoa butter (fat) and cocoa solids. At this step it is can be molded and sold as unsweetened baking chocolate. To make cocoa powder the liquor is hydraulically pressed to remove ~75% of the fat, and then pulverized into cocoa powder.

Dutched cocoa powder has an extra step before the shelled beans are ground into liquor. They are soaked in an alkaline solution of potassium carbonate.

Dutched cocoa was created

Cocoa vs chocolate

OK, this has been bugging me for a long time… According to our cookery teacher at school, chocolate contains three ingredients: cocoa, sugar, and milk. If you mix these together, you can “make chocolate”.

Back here in the real world, this doesn’t appear to work at all. And here’s why:

  • Chocolate tastes smooth, sweet, rich and creamy.
  • Cocoa powder, by itself, tastes sharp, bitter, and repulsive.

You can certainly take a mug of boiling milk and dump cocoa powder into it, and then stir in a little sugar. What you discover is that

  1. Cocoa powder does not disolve.
  2. The drink tastes absolutely terrible.
  3. No amount of sugar makes it stop tasting bitter and horrid.
  4. Even adding peppermint, vanilla, or similar still fails to mask the awful taste of the cocoa powder.

In short, as far as I can tell, cocoa is nothing like chocolate. And yet it’s supposedly the most important ingredient…? Clearly something is missing from my understanding here. Can anybody explain?

Probably related: When you buy chocolate-flavoured products, sometimes they taste like chocolate (i.e., delicious), and sometimes they taste like cocoa (i.e., inedible). Why is that?

PS. I’m not trying to actually make chocolate. (It’s not like it’s hard to just buy the stuff!) I just want to

How does one use cocoa butter in cooking?

I’m experimenting with different vegan solid fats for baked goods, like pancakes. This fat isn’t only solid at room temperature, it’s hard as a rock even on a warm summer day. For baked goods, do I need to do any adjustments to the recipe, or do I just microwave it until it melts and use it like butter?

Cocoa butter has an exceptionally high melting point for a vegan lipid.

For most baking applications, it probably not ideal; you would be better served with a liquid oil, or if you need something solid but malleable, a hydrogenated vegetable oil product like a vegan margarine.

The main culinary use (in general) is thinning chocolate in creating chocolate coated candies or similar, which makes sense as cocoa butter is one of the primary components in chocolate. Of course, when it is hardens and is in temper, it is literally as hard as chocolate.

Otherwise, you can fry or saute with it, although it would be easier to do so if you purchase cocoa butter grated as it is normally too hard to scoop at room temperature.

If you melt it (and it will melt just below body temperature), you could bake with it, but you may

Best Cocoa Brownies

Cocoa brownies have the softest center and chewiest candylike top “crust” of all because all of the fat in the recipe (except for a small amount of cocoa butter in the cocoa) is butter, and all of the sugar is granulated sugar rather than the finely milled sugar used in chocolate. Use the best cocoa you know for these fabulous brownies.


  • 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cold large eggs
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup walnut or pecan pieces (optional)
  • Special equipment: An 8-inch square baking pan


    Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom and sides of the baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.

    Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water. Stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth and hot enough that you want

Supermarket Cocoa Powder


Cocoa powder is a chocolate powerhouse, packing in more flavor ounce for ounce than any other form of chocolate. In the test kitchen, we reach for it ­constantly when making cookies, cake, pudding, hot ­chocolate—even chili—which is why we’re picky about what brand we keep around. When we last tasted cocoa powders, in 2005, the super­market cocoas produced such insipid results that we reluctantly resorted to sending away for the one brand that boasted real chocolate flavor and depth: Callebaut, which also rings in at a whopping $16 per pound (and that’s without shipping).

But given that all chocolates (milk, bittersweet, unsweetened, etc.) have witnessed an upgrade in recent years, we wondered: Have supermarket cocoa options improved as well? Furthermore, several higher-end brands, such as Valrhona and Scharffen Berger, can now be found in many markets nationwide. That was all the convincing we needed to revisit the category. We didn’t want to sacrifice quality for convenience, but if we could identify a brand that delivered the deep chocolate flavor we were after without the prohibitive cost or waiting for the postman, we’d happily make the switch. Pretty soon we were baking up a storm, incorporating eight widely available brands of

The Benefits of Cooking With Cocoa Butter

II you decide to cook with cocoa butter, there is no chance that you will run out of recipes! Cooking with cocoa butter is great for savory recipes as well as for sweets.

Cocoa butter is well known for its cosmetic benefits like healing stretch marks and scars, and moisturizing dry skin.  We can find pure cocoa butter under various forms such as cocoa butter lotions, cocoa butter oil, pure organic cocoa butter facial masks, and cocoa butter cream to name a few.  But it must be known that food grade cocoa butter is mainly used in the kitchen in many countries where cocoa is a primary ressource.

To make cocoa butter, you need cocoa nibs.  Which explains its name, but also its fine vaguely cocoa flavor.  For this, a cold pressing of the cocoa nibs is required, leaving all the nutritional value of the cocoa.  Cooking with cocoa butter will always taste a little sweet, like chocolate in the mouth (and it pleases!).

Where to buy cocoa butter for cooking

You can buy cocoa butter in many places.  Food grade and organic cocoa butter for cooking is easily available in organic markets, online stores, and even on Amazon! Check this page gathering

Mel’s Kitchen Tip: Cocoa Powder 101

Welcome to Cocoa Powder 101! Confused by recipes that call for Dutch-process cocoa and wonder how on earth it is different from “regular” or natural, unsweetened cocoa powder? Never fear! I’m here to help unravel the mystery behind cocoa powder in plain terms.

Let’s get started. I’ve called in (er, quoted) a few experts to help us along since heaven knows, I don’t have a degree in cocoa powder philosophy.

There are two main types of cocoa powder called for in baking: 1) Dutch-process cocoa and 2) natural unsweetened cocoa. I’m guessing that if you are like me, far and away, most of you have natural, unsweetened cocoa powder residing in your pantry. Common brands are Hershey and Nestle, among others. Dutch-process is a bit more expensive than natural, unsweetened cocoa and is widely heralded in foodie circles as “the” cocoa powder to use if you want deep, dark chocolate flavor.

What is Dutch-process cocoa and how is it different than natural, unsweetened cocoa powder?
Both Dutch-process and natural cocoa are made from cocoa beans. The difference is that with Dutch-process cocoa, the cocoa beans are soaked in a low-acid solution (alkaline) before being dried and ground. Natural, unsweetened cocoa is made from

How to cook with cocoa nibs


Cacao nibs or cocoa nibs are shards of cocoa bean most often associated with the chocolate-making process — though more and more they are being used as an ingredient in their own right.

The primal ingredient has pure and bitter cacao flavours, meaning that they work in both sweet and savoury dishes. It’s the nibs’ texture which is particularly distinctive though. The shards have a lot of bite. They’re harder than most nuts, almost like crystallised sugar —certainly more comparable to a Brazil nut rather than a softer almond or pecan.

Cacao nibs are created as part of the chocolate-making process. The cacao beans are roasted and then ‘cracked’ — separating the husks from the nibs. A technique called ‘winnowing’ blows the husks away, removing 25% of the original weight, and leaving the cocoa nibs behind.

At this point, the nibs are most commonly ground into a chocolate liquor, and then mixed with milk, sugar and emulsifier to make chocolate. But more often than ever,

cocoa powder

what is it?

When it comes to delivering deep, dark chocolate flavor, plain old cocoa powder is hard to beat. Made of finely ground partially defatted cocoa solids, it comes in two styles: natural (simply labeled unsweetened cocoa powder) and Dutch-processed (or alkalized), which has been treated with alkali to neutralize its natural acidity. Both taste bitter out of the box, but natural cocoa, which is lighter in color, has a fruitier, more acidic chocolate flavor, while Dutched cocoa, is mellower, with an almost nutty flavor.

kitchen math:

2-1/4 oz. = 3/4 cup

don’t have it?

In recipes without a chemical leaven (baking soda or baking powder), you can substitute Dutch-processed cocoa powder for natural cocoa powder. But the two types of cocoa react differently with baking soda and baking powder, so if your recipe contains these ingredients, stick with the type of cocoa that’s called for.

how to choose:

There are flavor variations among brands. You might find that you love the complex flavor of premium brands, such as Merckens and Valrhona, or you might prefer the familiar flavor of the supermarket brands like Hershey’s and Nestlé.

It’s a

5 Surprising Ways to Cook with Cocoa

Cacao beans in the hands of an Ecuadorian farmer.
Cacao beans in the hands of an Ecuadorian farmer.

When we think of chocolate, usually desserts and candy bars come to mind. But believe it or not, chocolate makes a great addition to savory dishes, as well. Just think of a delicious Mexican mole poblano sauce, and how it complements chicken. Now that research reveals that cocoa powder contains compounds that can protect against stroke, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, it’s a great time to try more cocoa recipes and enjoy main dishes that contain this healthy ingredient.

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What makes cocoa recipes so healthy? Cocoa beans are a particularly potent source of antioxidants, substances that mop up free